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By Moana Moeka‘a

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (May 22, 2002 – Cook Islands News)--Government concerns over problems experienced on Pukapuka since the 1999 general elections have resulted in the calling of a four day summit on Rarotonga.

A charter flight flew seven of the island’s leaders — including Member of Parliament Tiaki Wuatai — to the main island for the summit, which will seek to find solutions for problems allegedly caused by politicking on the northern group atoll.

Pukapuka/Nassau has had two by-elections and a general election since June 1999. A number of electoral petitions and hearings have also been before the courts – including an appeal sitting – in the same period. Claims and counter-claims of political victimization have also been leveled at supporters of the two main parties, at the change of each government over the past three years.

Possibly the most visible images of dissent were captured on a television camera when then-Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate was prevented from entering a village while visiting the island in 2000.

"I want to assure you that government has been troubled by the instability and unrest on the island," said Minister for Outer Islands Development Norman George in opening the Pukapuka summit yesterday morning.

George said Pukapuka was too good to be compared to the warring factions in Israel, and that it would be up to all at the summit to resolve and find answers to their differences.

"Let’s be serious in finding a lasting solution."

By putting all their problems on the table, George said he would rather that Pukapukans sort things out there and then, than to get government to enforce the laws on people.

The Minister added that he is hopeful that a new spirit will emerge and that accords will be signed at the conclusion of the summit on Thursday.

A session on the ancient custom of "akatamariki" was to have been presented yesterday by former MP Inatio Akaruru, Wuatai and Crown Law legal officer Tingika Elikana.

Akaruru was one of 50 Ngake villagers reduced to childhood status by the village council for refusing to take part in an island copra-making scheme in the middle of 2000 — just before Dr. Maoate’s visit.

At the time, Akaruru warned that using the traditional penalty for political reasons would weaken Pukapukan tradition.

Solicitor General Janet Maki presented a session on law and order, Public Service Commissioner Maine Brown discussed employer and employee relationships and OMIA project manager Otheniel Tangianau spoke on good governance.

The summit will hear this morning from the Prime Minister, Dr. Robert Woonton, who was present at yesterday’s opening, and the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

OMIA special projects executive officer Rairi Rairi will also talk on life under the Coalition IV government.

Those from Pukapuka attending the summit are Mayor Mata’a Aumatangi, Island Secretary Tai Ravarua, MP Wuatai, government representative Peua Taingauru, and Island Council members Manila Matenga (Yato), Arthur Akaruru (Ngake) and Rukuaro Marukore (Roto).

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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